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"Working Class Hero"

Henry's Cows, poems by Philip J. Burgess
Henry's Cows, poems by Philip J. Burgess

He wakes tired from sleeping rough
in the cab of a pickup truck
that remembers the Vietnam war.
He wakes up raw-bellied
from going to sleep hungry,
from driving a hundred miles the night before
in his failing Ford,
from needing this job too much.

His flesh cringes from the cold breath
of a mountain beginning
its withdrawal into
the season of solitude.
His flesh cringes from premonitions
of being touched by frozen wood and iron
before the first sweat of the day
comes to break the morning chill.

There is beauty in this canyon;
the rippling sheen of moving water
rimmed with crystal,
the high ridge against first light.
There is beauty here but little comfort,
he can't warm his hands
on the fire that just now touches
the tops of the tamaracks
up near the tree line.

Once as a child
driving with his father before dawn
to get a load of coal,
huddled against the cold
blowing through the old truck cab,
they were overtaken
by a passenger train,
and in each dining car window
white linen and gleaming silver
paid homage to a single red rose.

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